Resistance and Representation: Postcolonial Fictions of Nations in Crisis

Nagesh Rao


This article examines the representation of resistance in two recent novels, Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance and Timothy Mo's The Redundancy of Courage, in order to draw out some of the challenges that these novels pose to current trends in postcolonial studies. Although both are novels of nations in crisis, and are shaped by the dialectic of repression and resistance, the former has achieved considerable popularity, while the latter remains relatively unknown. I try to account for this discrepancy by studying their respective representations of subaltern agency. I suggest that both novels challenge received postcolonial conceptions of marginality and subalternity. My reading of Mistry's realist novel shows that the search for an "authentic" subaltern voice, which postcolonial theorists have often cautioned against, is fraught with contradictions. However, Mistry's realist representation of the poor and the oppressed does not erase subaltern agency as much as it reduces it to the level of a micro-politics that sits easily with much of postcolonial theory. On the other hand, Mo's novel seems at first sight to bear all the trappings of postcolonialist discourse, with its use of a multiply-determined narrator whose chief characteristic is his marginality. Nevertheless, I argue that the novel resists incorporation into a postcolonial problematic because of its affirmative vision of national liberation.


Rohinton Mistry; A Fine Balance; Timothy Mo; The Redundancy of Courage; Subaltern agency; realism; Irony; Nation-form

Full Text: